Team #1 Debriefing Transcript, July 13, 1964
Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, pages 1 – 7
[Corresponds to Chapters 1 – 3 in the Debriefing Summary (1:40-52:45)]
Source: National Council of Negro Women. “Wednesdays in Mississippi – Team #1,” 13 July 1964. NCNW Collection 1, Series 15, Sub-series 5, File 17, Side 1. Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Archives for Black Women’s History, Washington, D.C., 1964. Audiotape converted to MP3 file.
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 1 [Corresponds to Chapter 1 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Polly Cowan:||Could I–[bell ringing] thank you, Marian–have your attention. I don’t think it’ll be hard to get your attention here because everybody who is here is here for one purpose, either to report on our experiences in Mississippi, or the second team members are here to determine what something about what their experiences in Mississippi will be like, and then we have many people here who were interested and have been kind to us, who have raised money for us, and have gotten teammates for us, have volunteered services in any one of a number of ways. And one or two husbands who I think will be interested too. So I would just simply like to begin by thanking you all for coming and introducing Miss Dorothy I. Height, the President of the National Council of Negro Women who was the leader of our first team.|
|Dorothy Height:||What I think is good, to have a chance to get together and look back over our experience and look ahead to the experiences to come. It’s helpful I think, to remind ourselves that when Polly Cowan and Shirley Smith first thought of working on this idea, little did we dream that there would be quite the need that there obviously is for this kind of a “ministry of presence” as we have come to call it.The objective that we had in mind, and that grew as time went on was to establish contact with women in the community and with the services that were being rendered in remedial education and voter registration and the other special projects set up, with the view that we would most hopefully begin to open up some basis for reconciliation and for the building of better community, in the closed society that is Mississippi. Also, that we might come back into our several communities, more prepared to interpret what we had seen and to help the United States get on with the job of making every part of it a place in which every citizen not only is protected but that he has the full rights to the liberty, and to the justice, and the pursuit of happiness that we hold so dear.Well, I think I’d like to begin by saying, telling about one or two things that had meaning for me. I’m sure that each one of us will have something different, and that no one of us will be able to tell all, and that we have that magnificent, coordinating organizer, Polly Cowan, peeping over our shoulders urging us to put it all on paper, and that we will all do this so that there will be fuller accounts of the many things that we’ll be doing.But one of the first things that happened to me in the early hours in Jackson was that I went to meet with the members of the YWCA board, who had been chosen by the executive because we were eager to see to what extent it would be possible to get some of the white leadership of the community to take leadership and to take a stand. This was a very small group because it included the executive, the president, and the newly elected president, one of the older members of the board, and a relatively young woman who was a member of the board, and then the two Negro women who served as executive and branch executive in the YWCA. If you don’t know the folklore of the YWCA, let me tell you that we say that there are four people who carry the major leadership: the executive, and the president, the branch executive, and the branch chairman. So, in a sense, I can say that that foursome was there with some plus.
We talked about what an organization like the YWCA is trying to do, in this country today as it works on a program of desegregation and integration. Since I carry that major responsibility, I have the task of interpreting what it is that we mean when we say that we’re working so that there will be no vestige of segregation within the association life and within the community. I was pleased at the response because here were women who already had accepted that as a national goal. The thing that was puzzling them was how they could be more effective in Jackson, where the barriers are so high and where the reprisals are threatened on every side.
I reached for several examples and mentioned Partners for Progress in Atlanta. One of the women most hopeful in the group
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 2 [Corresponds to Chapter 1 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Dorothy Height (continued):||was quick to say, “But, goodness, Atlanta is so fare ahead of Jackson.” I had only to remind her that there were not very many years ago when I landed in Atlanta with the woman who was the president of the YWCA, and because she was white and I a Negro, we could not ride in the same taxi. The taxi driver was so upset to think that she had allowed him to put my bags into the taxicab, into his taxicab with her bags, that he simply refused to move any of them, and told us to find one of the colored boys and have him come and take the bags out and find a colored taxi, and so on, the way it went. So that what seems so good in Atlanta now is because there have been people like this Partners for Progress group working.Well, I think the thing that I would say out of this meeting was there wasn’t too much that I could say was accomplished then, but I looked upon it as the kind of thing that would be cumulative in its growth because if this little group of women–and we said this in the meeting–would be willing each week, as different groups would return to Jackson, to add one or two or three women who might be on the fringes, I think that there could be a great deal happening. I have a feeling that there will be much more heard from this group.One of the things that happened to us that evening, I think is also full of learning for us because everyone of us have been given all sorts of instructions, and we know what were are supposed to do. We’ve been urged to keep in touch with each other. We’ve been urged to let our staff and others know exactly where we were, where we are, every moment. Well, my friend Marian Logan and I, along with Mrs. Harvey who is the director of a local funeral service in Jackson, got ourselves so interested in what had happened at the mass meeting, where Mrs. Logan not only had spoken, but I understand she received a standing ovation. But that we’d also heard stories and reports about the integration that had taken place. The NAACP group had been received at the Heidelberg, and the Sun-n-Sand, and the King Edward. Then, at the end of the mass meeting, different people stood up and said I want to tell you that I went down to such an such a place and I was well received, and they told all these stories. So, because I had missed my dinner, we were going to stop and try to get something to eat. Well, we went in Mrs. Harvey’s car, and as we started along, she said, “Well, where shall we go?” Well, first we began to think, and she said, “Well, one thing we could do, we could go to the Sun-n-Sand. They’ve been receiving people.” For the moment, I think we had kind of a lapse because the next thing we knew, we were saying OK, and there we were in the Sun and Sand, very nicely received and seated.I won’t tell you every detail of the service, but I could say that when we went in, we were very well received by the man who was seating people, and then we were placed in the center of the dining room. The waitress who came to us, she wasn’t very pleased to see us, and in a rather sullen fashion, she began to take our orders. Then, later as she returned, she began to let us know by the way she dropped the silverware that she was not pleased to be putting it on the table. Then, she threw the basket of bread on the table at a later moment and dashed to the kitchen where upon the young man who had seated us said to her, “Oh, no, you won’t,” and followed her into the kitchen. But there was another person there, a hostess who wasn’t very pleased with all of this, and she was not only taking the waitress’ side, but I think she was really aiding and abetting the waitress in her rebellion against what seemed to her to have been service that she didn’t want to render.
As all of this proceeded, Mrs. Logan had asked for some matches. They hadn’t come, so we reminded the hostess, and she said, “Well, if you wanted matches, get them yourself.” Well, then, this gave us a warning,, and I think at that moment all of us remembered, you know, like what mother said don’t do–it all came to us at that moment that we were told not to be out after dark by ourselves, not to go anywhere without having everyone aware of where we were. All of this, you know, came before us very clear.
But there were, the Negro help that was in the kitchen came to the door, and they looked on, and they were very much concerned. We began to see Negro busboys who were nonexistent before this, began to appear, and they were sort of removing ashtrays that weren’t quite dirty, and they were just sort of hovering about. Well, after a while, one of them, the waitress brought out the famous fruit salad, which was the most beautiful fruit salad I had ever seen. Meanwhile, we had one of our group made a call to Doris Wilson to let her know where we were.
Then, the man who had seated us, came over and he said–and this is the part that I want also to stress–he said, “Are y’all from Jackson?” Mrs. Harvey said, “Oh, yes.” I think Mrs. Logan and I were about to say that we’re from New York, but once she had said this, and he followed saying, “Are you sure?” And, she said, “Yes,”
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 3 [Corresponds to Chapter 1 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Dorothy Height (continued):||we didn’t want to get into a little contradiction, so we just sat. Then he turned and said, “Well, if you’re from Jackson, were in the devil did you get the nerve to come in here and expect to be serve?” And then he said “Aren’t you afraid that you’d find yourselves in a riot?” So I said, “What are we doing that would cause a riot? Why would this be a riot?” And, he said, “Well, you never know.” As we left the place, one of the men in the lobby came up to us and said, “Were you served well?” We told him that we were. When we got outside, we realized that there were several of the Negro help, and they, one of them let us know the details, and then he said that they saw to it that the salad was served.The thing that I think I want to draw out of this is that only that we would urge all of our fellow–I won’t say fellow travelers [laughter]–but all of us to follow the instructions. But also I think that we learned something that seems to me has hit our country in a very peculiar way, and that is that many people feel that because they saw the NAACP on television and on New York Times well received, that this has happened. There is, at present in Mississippi, kind of a dress rehearsal to make sure that all of the proper people have the proper treatment so that there must be made the proper reports. But he let us know his true feeling when he said, “If you are from Jackson, where did you get the nerve to come in here?” And I think that what we have to see as we go in is that in some respects, no matter how bad it is for us, we won’t even experience one half of what the people who are there who seem to dare to step out will experience.The last bit I want to mention is from one of the Freedom Schools that we visited at the Mount Zion Baptist Church. As we gathered, I was talking with a young woman who was a teacher from Philadelphia, a high school teacher, young white woman. She had been working with a group of nine and ten year-olds. I was sitting over in one of the church pews, really just trying to cool off because the temperature was somewhere around 100 degrees. She looked so desperate as she came out that I spoke to her, and this caused her to stop, and she slumped down in the chair, in the seat beside me. She said, “you know, I just feel so defeated. I’ve just really pulled a terrible one. The worst piece of teaching that I’ve ever done.” Well, as one who ordinarily works in the training field, I said, “Well, I know what you mean and how you feel about this, so let’s, tell me what happened.”She said that in the midst of a class that she was working with these youngsters that she has been trying to help them to get some sense of self esteem. So, she used as a role play, Uncle Tom–and how one responded to Uncle Tom. She had one child serve as Uncle Tom and the other one was to be Mr. Charlie, one of course, the subservient Negro and the other one the white man in the master position. She said as the children did this, some of their comments were fascinating. She said they found it harder to act out the role than to tell the other person when he was wrong. They couldn’t do it when she put them in the role, but then they would say as the Uncle Tom would walk in and say to the master, Mr. Charlie. Well, Mr. Charlie would say, “Well, Tom, how are you today?” And he’d say, “Oh, just fine.” They would say, “Oh no, you wouldn’t say ‘just fine.’ You’d say ‘Boss, I’m feeling pretty well and I’m very happy'” and so on, and they would criticize and fill it in. She said as the discussion went along, they brought out many things. She was trying to help them build some understanding.
But there was three children in the group and they had not said one word, all the time the class had been in session over the several days. Suddenly, she looked at one child’s face when they were in a discussion, and they were talking about this, and were asking why is it that anyone acts like Uncle Tom. Why do you think he does this? Someone said, “Well, because white people act like they are better.” And this child interrupted and said, “white people are better than colored people because…” She never got the sentence finished because the whole group pounced on her. And, said this young teacher–and I think trying to silence them–said, “Oh, don’t do that. Of course I don’t agree with her, but…” And she said, “I realized at that moment that I had added that extra blow, and that we had all shut her off.” So, she sat there.
The thing I felt out of this was that all I could do was to say this was very well-known experience with anyone who is in the teaching profession, but that the important thing was that she would have another opportunity, and that she might try different things. We talked about different kinds of methods that might be used and how she might pursue this. The thing she said was, “I kept saying to myself, here’s the moment, I’ve been praying for it, and I was the one who destroyed it.” I think that when we hear about what’s going on, and what the young people are doing, I think there will be many mistakes that are made, but I had a feeling that there are some very fine, sensitive, highly trained people who really are trying to do a job, and who really know that no matter what else happens in Mississippi, that the changes in Mississippi will come as both white and Negro children and adults get some new sense of self, so that they will rise up and claim the freedom that is their own birthright. I came back really feeling that we could many times wish that in communities all over the country there were little children gathering, looking at the problems of the century, and then trying to see what harm had come to them through it, but also that they had this kind
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 4 [Corresponds to Chapters 1 and 2 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Dorothy Height (continued):||of leadership trying to see how you help move them ahead. [applause]|
|Polly Cowan:||Thank you, Miss Height. Rather than give you the full program blow by blow because it was a very full program, I think that this sort of thing that Miss Height just talked about, is more interesting to <…> this personal experiences that we had. Later, if you want us to go through ever step of what we did, and if any of the other teams who are here would like this, we certainly will because although programs will vary from week to week, there will be a similarity in the pattern. I would like now to bring to the microphone Miss Anne McGlinchy who went on our team with about, what, three days’ notice; didn’t know any of us; entered right into it. We felt in half an hour that we’d known her most of our lives. She represented the National Council of Catholic Women, and I think has an entirely, quite a different point of view to express to us now.|
|Anne McGlinchy:||I thought, in my report, I divided my observations into three parts: contact with the white community, with the colored, and then what we saw of the volunteer workers. I will start with the volunteer workers, and I agree absolutely with what Miss Height said. From what we saw, they were really extraordinary young people working under unbelievable handicaps. The temperature was 100 that particular day, and I imagine it had been that before and it would be again.The one young girl that we met was starting a community center in an old, old, building that I guess had been abandoned. I don’t really remember. The community was allowing her to start a center. She expected to have a nursery for small children, so that their mothers could learn to sew, learn home nursing. There would be literacy classes. There would be playgrounds. At that particular moment, she had three sewing machines, the old treadles, and I think she had a portable of her own, and that’s all. While we were down there, we were given a list of the things which these teachers out in the Freedom Schools, in the community centers, in the voter registrations need, and the list is that long. Everything that is, could possibly be used is on that list because the supplies are so limited. They will be delighted if you send chalk, writing paper, blackboards, notepaper, balls, and anything that you can send will be most welcome.My feeling was that having seen some of these people in a couple of these Freedom Schools, having gone to two of the COFO offices, having seen an apartment house where six or seven young men lived, including a young <…> boy, a young many from England, my feeling was that, hereafter, I will think several times before I criticize young Americans. They really are quite extraordinary. Like Miss Height, I imagine they will make mistakes. They may do some foolish things, but they certainly are dedicated and they know, they seem to know what they are doing and to be doing it under extraordinarily difficulty.Now, the colored community, we met at the tail end of a fellowship meeting when some of the ladies had left. We didn’t get back to Jackson from Hattiesburg in time to see the meeting, to participate, but some of the ladies had stayed to talk. They were very gracious. They were, we weren’t with them for very long, but we did have a feeling of really very appreciative that we had come. We really weren’t doing very much, but appreciative that some people from the North were interested.
However, that evening in Jackson, we were taken to Campbell College, which is a Negro college, and we attended a meeting of WomanPower Unlimited. I’d say there were about fifty women there from the colored community, a couple of white people. The chairman was Mrs. Harvey to whom Miss Height referred, quite a dynamic woman, and I’m sure a very powerful leader. We started with a prayer, and then she reviewed how this organization had come into being. Now, the women were very simple, for the most part, unpretentious women, and they first began to realize what they could do when the Freedom Riders came down there a few years ago, many of them without lodging or food and very little money. The colored community of these women were called upon to provide food and lodging, and they did it. Evidently, for the first time, they realized how great their power was. I think it was Mrs. Harvey said God’s power they learned is unlimited and God will not limit the power of the people who do his work. And the leaders are very, very thrilled.
Now, this group has been organized now for several years. Now of course, this summer they have a project, and the project is to take care of the volunteers. One example of what, two examples of what they have done. In Jackson, COFO rented an apartment in the second story of a rather old-fashioned house, and six or seven
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 5 [Corresponds to Chapters 2 and 3 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Anne McGlinchy (continued):||volunteers were assigned there. A couple of days after they arrived, somebody in this group learned that they didn’t have beds, they didn’t have sheets, they didn’t have blankets, they didn’t have food, they didn’t have chairs. They had absolutely nothing. Within 24 hours, this group of women had furnished the apartment with a bed for each one of the volunteers. The Jewish community came up with 35 sheets and pillowcases, and in addition, cooked a turkey dinner for all theses boys for the July the 4th. These ladies had dug up fans, chairs, tables and food.The second project that they were taking over was to feed this group. There was a lady at the head of the table, Miss Redmond, and there was no fuss. This was extraordinary. No committees, no subcommittees, no agenda. They just said Miss Redmond was in charge, and Miss Redmond spoke up and she said, “You call me, and you bring your food, and I will see that it gets to the lads.” When these women spoke, or a couple of the other women that we met, I had this feeling that, of really quite extraordinary ability and power, and very great spiritual depth in these women.I would like to tell you about one young woman who sat with us at the luncheon, when Miss Height was making this girl who was so frustrated. She’s very lovely looking, delicate, refined colored girl. She sat about opposite me. Somebody said to her, “So, you are out on bail.” Naturally, I was interested and asked her what her story was. Well, she with about 25 others had been arrested for picketing a courthouse. This had just become an offense because as fast as the community, Negro community does something, a new law is passed, so this was now illegal, and she and the other were jailed. They were held for eight days without bail, and she is now out on $1000 bail. I asked if the warden, the jailer had, how he had treated them. She smiled, and very gently, with no bitterness–this was the remarkable thing about this, no bitterness–she said, “Well, he did beat up one of the girls, but he only spat on the rest of us.” So, my feeling is that the Negro ladies–we did not meet many men; I guess a mister or two–but these women have some extraordinary power, and with that power, I don’t see how they can possibly fail. [applause]|
|Polly Cowan:||I don’t know how to add to that particular statement, Miss McGlinchy. I think it did give a real feeling of what all of us experienced in that, in all those episodes. One thing maybe I should straighten out, though, is that WomanPower Unlimited is a Negro group which has been joined by two members of the white community. They would love to have other members of the white community, but so far, there have only been two who have dared to do this. The same thing is true about–what is the name of the group that went to <…>? Is it?–Interfaith Fellowship Prayer Meeting which they had every second week, and actually at that meeting there was only one white woman. I imagine she attends faithfully. She is a member of the United Church Women. I think that again, none of the other have [another speaker: There were several white women this day.] Oh, I apologize, I came late. If someone else can give more of an interpretation on that then.Marian, can you come up to the center of the room and talk? Struggle up. Your hostess, Mrs. Logan.|
|Marian Logan:||Well, I don’t know, all these ladies give me such a complex. I’m in New York with a complex, you know I’m in trouble. But everybody else seems so well prepared, and I haven’t written the first report, and I, really I think–hm? [another speaker: <…> we only have outlines.] Outlines? I have notes, a couple of which I’d like to get over before I forget. I can’t really tell you how I felt about Mississippi. It’s just; even now it’s just much too complex. I haven’t had time to really separate all the things. But I think one thing I do know is it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. And it’s sad. Really sad. At times there were things that just break your heart. It’s just unbelievable. I think, I must say this, I know I sound very disorganized. That’s because I’m not prepared, so you’ll have to bear with me. I don’t know any other ladies with whom I would have rather traveled, and I just wish that we could go somewhere else, and maybe we could really have a ball. [laughter] But, I don’t know, maybe they wouldn’t go anywhere else with me.But I remember, I can just recall, some of the feelings I had from the moment we got off the plane, and although it didn’t mean much then, we joked about this on the plane. We told Polly and Jean and the ladies that we were going, and this was the last time we’d speak to you until we were back in New York and so forth, and we were trying to be very funny. But when we got in the airport, and Dorothy and I were kind of really, alone, it struck me–actually, I guess I didn’t realize it struck me then, it struck me after–how alone we really were. Because Dorothy and I were standing there, and this strange little man comes up and asked for Miss Height and Mrs. Whomever-else it was she was traveling with, and that was me. So I was in the <…> and I’m not accustomed to that, really Dorothy. Then, well, we got our luggage and got out and they took us to this funeral parlor. Well, they had the, they were doing business. Then, we went to dinner at a little place not far down the street, and the first person I saw was one of the little friends I had said I was looking for, which was Connie McDougal, who is the daughter of our lawyer. I was delighted to see her, and also saw another friend, George Crockett, who is a lawyer from Detroit, who was on the trip when my husband and I went to Russia two years ago. So, we were glad to see one another and that kind of made me feel a little relaxed for a while.I don’t know. Things began to happen so quickly. Dorothy had to go off to somewhere, I don’t know where, and then the next thing I know I was taken to a mass meeting. It was at this mass meeting then I got this great ovation, and I really don’t know for what. I tell you the truth, I was so embarrassed because, I really was, because I hadn’t done anything, and they gave me this great introduction, and recited what sacrifices I had made, and what not, and I really felt so humble. I can’t quite remember what I did say,|
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 6 [Corresponds to Chapters 3 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Marian Logan (continued):||but they were words to the effect that it was I who was grateful to them for letting us come there. We hoped that the main thing we wanted to do was to find out if there was any way we could help, and we hoped that we would let someone, make them understand that we were trying to understand their position, which is a very difficult thing to do, but we hoped that we could, and we hoped that they’d help us to. If there was anything that we could do that would be helpful, we want them to tell us. The main thing we wanted them to know was that we came because we cared enough to come, and we hoped that would be enough at least to let us in the door, and then maybe that our intelligence, or our sensitivity, or something would help, you know, guide us the rest of the way. It was a very wonderful meeting, and very moving, and as many of these, or most of these that I’ve ever been to, in fact, all that I’ve ever been to in the South, are in the churches, where there’s such a wonderful, warm spirit.The greatest thing they have going for them is their sense of humor. It’s just so wonderful, and I just couldn’t help thinking every time I watched these people, no matter what they were talking about, and it was all very serious to us who have sat in New York comfortably in our homes and read about it, and saw how tragic it was, and how awful. They’d put it on like a sketch, you know, to dramatize it, for the other people who aren’t quite following the line they should, and, but with humor. I couldn’t help feeling that they’ve got to win, because there’s nobody that’s got this kind of humor under such circumstances. No one else who can laugh at a thing like this.Well, here were a couple of inside jokes, I guess. I think I feel privileged because I was able to snoop around and get a few little tidbits. One of the incidents they recited to me was about this Negro woman who worked as a maid in a white home, of course. She walked in one morning, and said to the madam, “We are boycotting Jungle Jitney.” Or Jitney Jungle, Jungle Jitney. They’re boycotting. So, the lady didn’t say anything. She repeated it again, and the lady didn’t say anything. The third time she said it, the lady said, “Mary,” or whatever her name is, “Are you trying to tell me that you don’t want me to buy in Jitney Jungle?” The lady said, “Oh, no. I don’t care whether you buy in Jitney Jungle. All I’m telling you is we’re boycotting it, and if any food comes in here, you’re going to cook it,” which I thought was pretty wonderful, if it was true. [laughter]This was the thing I thought of, this person, whom ever she was, I thought of when I made this suggestion when one lady was crazy enough to ask me what I thought. I suggested they should really organize the maids of the community because I thought they were really the backbone. I said I have a picture of any white lady getting on her knees, scrubbing her floor, taking care of her children, and cooking her husband’s meals for more than three days without the whole roof blowing off the house. I’m sure the husband would say, “Get her back no matter what, how much it costs,” or whatever it is, you see. The lady said to me, Miss Height’s friend, Mrs. Harvey, said to me, “Well, you’re the one we need down here to organize this.” I said, “Oh no., I shouldn’t do it, and neither should you. You should get one of these maids in whom the others have confidence, and they feel some affinity for, and someone who is strong to do this.” I thought of this woman they told me this tale about. I said, “Now, she’s your girl. You should find her.” If she’s fiction, they should create someone, really, because I think they could do a good job there.
Now, there was, there were many memorable moments, but one I think the most rewarding moment to me was at the Freedom School at the church. I’ve forgotten which church it was, Dorothy, you remember? Yes. There were these little children nine, ten, eleven years-old who were the reporters of a newspaper they called “The Freedom Press.” This little boy walked up. Jeanie had one of them, she was sitting in the pew just in front of me, and I think Dorothy’s was across the aisle. I’m sitting in the back, and this little boy came up and asked could he interview me, and I told him I would be delighted. So he said, “What is your name?” and I told him, “Marian Logan.” Then for about fifteen minutes he proceeded to give me this long dissertation, not asking me questions but telling me the whole story of the Mississippi business, you see. It was all so pat and together and everything, like it was well rehearsed. It was pretty wonderful. After a while, he kind of lost me. I don’t know what I was doing. I was looking at other things or thinking about other things. And out of nowhere–and as far as I’m concerned, apropos of nothing–came this remark, “It was just like when we were fighting in the school yard and the principal came out and said ‘you mustn’t fight with each other, you must stick together and fight the white race.’ Now, don’t you think that’s right?” Well, I said, “No, son, I don’t.” So, he said, “Why?” I said, “Well,” and I happened to see the back of Jeannie’s head–you really saved me, you don’t know how, Jeanie–I saw her little blonde head, and then these two teachers, white teachers, came by at the same time, two wonderful young men. And I said, “Well, you see, my friend Mrs. Benjamin sitting there and these two gentlemen. Aren’t they nice? Don’t you like them?” He said, “Oh, yes.” And I said, “Well, you see, you can’t fight a race, you have to fight a system with which you don’t agree, which is against the things in which you believe, which you know are right. I said, “Now, these people are white, and they are for you, so you can’t fight them.” I realized that this boy didn’t consider Mrs. Benjamin, whom he had just met, or the two white teachers as white. Actually, I guess if you’d asked him, he might have said they are our people. I don’t know what he would have said, but he didn’t consider them the enemy, which is the point. The most beautiful thing was the realization on his face, to see a youngster learning something. I can’t describe it. It was just so wonderful. I felt then that my trip was made just through that.
Then he went on to tell me how in school–I asked him were there things that we could do for him or how we could help him. He said that in school that he didn’t know about Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver, and what not,
|Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 7 [Corresponds to Chapters 3 in the Debriefing Summary]|
|Marian Logan (continued):||and he had learned about it in the Freedom School. I said, “Well, doesn’t it make you proud?” And he said, “Yes,” He said because “I didn’t know that we had scientists.” I think what he meant to say was in all these things he was saying that he didn’t know that there was anyone of whom he could be proud in his own race, and he was learning this in this school. He wanted to continue. He thought the school was a wonderful thing. He wished his mother and father could come because they didn’t read or write, and they’d go down, if they went down to register, they couldn’t because they couldn’t even fill out the forms. It’s an embarrassment–which were his very words, or his very word, “embarrassment”– and he didn’t want to be an embarrassment.There’s so much that happened that I just can’t tell anyone. I know it’s not in sequence at all, and there’s much–there’s too much to tell. It’s just not to be believed. But I do honestly feel, and I don’t say it because I went; I can say it because I went. Because I saw it with others. But, I really believe that we helped in going, if only because we let them know that we cared, and that there were other people who cared too who were coming. I think this is very important. They need everything. They have nothing. But they smile. You see the little children with their bellies out to here. They don’t even have a proper diaper to put on the little babies. We saw some when we went to — what was the name of that place? Something-crossing. Do you remember? [replies] Palmer’s Crossing. I noticed the little children across the road in the hot, hot heat with the flies all around their hair. And it’s just awful. To think of the things that happen in this country. I think it’s so important because–well, I feel like I’m making a political speech or something–but, really, I liken it to what happened with Hitler and the Jews, and everybody sat by and didn’t do anything. You can’t just continue to sit by and not do anything. Maybe what we’re doing isn’t much, but it is enough to let people know that somebody outside is watching them. I think this is important because over there, when Hitler did that, nobody they knew of cared what was happening, so they killed lots of people. And everybody said this is terrible. But nobody really did anything about it, and nobody really did anything about Hungary. If we don’t do anything now, I’m telling you it’s not going to be too long, it’s going to be too late.Now, I tell you, I guess I left out a lot. Dorothy told you about how she tried to get me killed in the Sun-n-Sand. Because I really wasn’t even hungry [laughter]. Never mind [someone else speaking: lost appetite] I lost whatever it was. I had a burst when that woman looked at me and threw that silver across the floor, across the table, you see.Oh, there was one other thing. We were at a church, and I was talking on the phone to my husband, when this car turned around the corner and the guy threw the bomb in. So, my poor husband didn’t even know what happened. I hung up the phone, you see. He had all the exciting news about himself, and I was trying to tell him in code fashion so these Mississippi operators wouldn’t get too much information. I don’t know, it’s just, it’s a bit much.
So, any how, we came back home, and I got to thinking about all the things that they told us they could use and in Hattiesburg particularly. We talked to so many of the COFO kids there. Wonderful people like Sandy Leigh and that wonderful minister whom they locked up an hour after we left Hattiesburg, Reverend Beech. And also we met the wonderful rabbi who was <…> Did you meet him, Polly? I did. Did you meet him, Dorothy? Yes, in the church, yes. He was just so wonderful. And it hurts so much more. It hurts enough, at least for me, when I just read about people I never heard of, or never knew, and something awful happens to them. That’s tragic enough, but when you know someone–and I don’t know why it should be any different because it makes it be no less awful, you see. But when I read these things when I came back, it really was, it was just too much. It was like Lena Horne told me when she came back from Jackson, and the second day she was back that Medgar Evers was killed. She was so upset about it. Things like that you really feel because you’ve been part of the situation or a community for no matter how short a time it was, you know.
The women were really wonderful. I think they’re trying, they’re working. There were three–incidentally Polly and Dorothy–white women I counted in the community who attended the prayer meeting and who also attended the WomanPower Unlimited meeting. I think that they are really wonderful because imagine what they must take. Because they treat the white even worse than the Negroes, and then also, I think the Negroes have kind of, have built up an immunity to things if it’s possible. You know, maybe they don’t feel it as much because they’re so accustomed to it.
In any case, when I came back, a friend, many friends were calling to see if we got back all right. One particular friend asked–Michael Drury, Lou your remember him?–and she wanted to know what she could do. I said, well, they need everything, and I mentioned sheets. She said, “I’ll go right down to Macy’s on Monday. They’re having a white sale, and I’ll get some sheets.” And I said, I don’t know how it came around, and she said she knew Jack Straus who was the owner or grand “pooh-pa” of Macy’s. So, I said, “Well, listen, you tell him that I said I think he ought to donate a couple of hundred sheets, and if he doesn’t, you tell him I’m going to get a lot of my friends to close their accounts.” Well, when I relayed this to Lou Cowan, he didn’t think this was too good. I haven’t had time to really think on this yet, Lou, but I still think this is what we should do. I think if there are stores that sell things that we need, for people who need more than we do, and we spend like we do in these stores, I think we ought to pressure them the same way that we ask people to pressure and boycott other places in the South.
All right, I’ll shut up [laughter, applause].
Team #1 Debriefing, July 13, 1964, page 16 excerpt
[Corresponds to Chapter 6 in the Debriefing Summary (Side 2 – 30:23-55:30)]
|Polly Cowan:||As for me, because I have worked for so many months to help bring off this series of trips, the greatest experience of my own was that of seeing the women’s project, our team, in action. We found ourselves working together with a spirit and a harmony which one would think we could only have had after many months of activities in a concerted fashion.(53:18) In the setting of Mississippi, the working together is more meaningful than it might have been in New York. We lead an integrated black and white life together for most of our life and the majority of hours that we spent in the state of Mississippi–except for that first evening when Marian didn’t know what we were doing. The rest of the time, we were integrated in Mississippi. This is the way of life which we all prefer and we all believe in. We can’t always find the means of accomplishing it up north, in our own open society. Therefore, I think it’s a real achievement of spirit and faith to carry on with our beliefs in a closed society. Not one of us at the time we were performing our tasks and making our contacts had any self consciousness, I’m quite sure. I think I was observant. We gave no consideration to the factor while we were on the trip, the factor of our own personal integration, except for the acknowledged need of safety and elementary precautions in certain situations. It was only after my return, as I tried to evaluate the experiences from my personal point of view that I came to realize the importance of the example of the method that we set of human interaction. It cannot have gone unnoticed by the teachers and the students in the projects, by the staff of the COFO office, by the groups of Negro women who were so marvelously hospitable to us. This significant aspect of our Mississippi trip was enjoyed only by a few of the white women who had been our hostesses in the segregated visit the first night. The rest of the white women we met in Jackson still feel too threatened, too intimidated by the opposition forces in the community to take this important step toward their own liberation.I do feel, and maybe it’s because I have been in the South before, and some of our team members haven’t–although Miss Height has been there over and over again–for me the most rewarding experience of all was the action and interaction of the team together and the team with the people that we saw.|